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Abstracts

Engaged Scholarship and Transformative Publics in the Face of Political and Ecological Catastrophe
Romand Coles

We live in times of increasingly severe and entangled political, ecological, and educational crises. Coles argues that responding to these challenges requires a “visionary pragmatism” that works at the generative intersections between imaginative, radically transformative intellectual life and fine-grained practices engaged in cultivating practical change. This, in turn, hinges on co-creating knowledge and practice in hybrid publics composed of interdisciplinary scholars and students from educational institutions, on the one hand, and people associated with myriad other communities, organizations, and movements, on the other. Offering a distinctive perspective, he suggests that only by shifting our institutions and knowledge production in more profoundly public and pragmatic directions can we move beyond the ruts of both increasingly stagnant “critique” and diminishing political, ecological and educational horizons. His reflections are at once richly theoretical and grounded in decades of work in political activism, civic engagement, and movements for institutional change in higher education.

Rethinking Social Justice in the 21st Century: The Case Against Reparations
Carolyn Rouse

In June 2014, celebrated social critic Ta-Nehisi Coates published a persuasive article in The Atlantic entitled “The Case for Reparations.” He argues that “Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.” But, what metrics are used to quantify a moral debt? And what does it mean for a country to be whole? Repairing the past through debt repayment is a seductive concept, but reparations rely on the myth of singularity or the philosopher in Plato’s cave who unlike all others is able to comprehend an eternal truth. Ethnographic studies of reparative social justice movements, however, complicate truth claims. For example, the designation of perpetrators and victims, who owes vs. who is owed the debt, is never easy. Using the failures of international donor aid and development as a case study, this talk considers successive attempts at reparations from colonialism (a reparation for slavery) to new indigenous and sovereignty movements that attempt to link rights to allodial land titles and/or forms of cultural citizenship. This talk challenges contemporary calls for reparations by engaging the question of what it means to be human, conceived anthropologically and philosophically, in the 21st century.

Unheard Warnings: Nuclear Tyranny Requires a Sleeping Citizenry
Elaine Scarry

Gandhi once wrote, “You can wake a man who’s asleep, but you can’t wake a man who’s pretending to be asleep.” The United States population appears to be largely unworried about the possibility of a nuclear war, despite the fact that various experts—such as former Secretary of Defense William Perry – judge that we are currently closer to a nuclear war than at any time since the Cuban Missile Crisis. The nuclear architecture allows one person to kill many millions in a single afternoon, and to initiate an exchange of weapons that will destroy most land species on earth. This architecture can be dismantled, but only if the citizenry wakes up and demands that it be dismantled. This lecture first tries to account for the population’s indifference to the possibility of nuclear war and then goes on to show the key part this indifference plays in keeping this towering injustice in place.

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Illinois 150: The 21st Century Research University and the Public Good by Kevin Hamilton, Paul Michael Leonardo Atienza, Jessica Harless, Kelsey Hassevoort, Robin Holland, Marcelo Boccato Kuyumjian, Allison LaHood, Beatriz Esmeralda Maldonado, Robert M Rouphail, Majid Shafiee-Jood, Lettycia Terrones, and Kevin Wallington is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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